In May, I purchased tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago to check out the “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibit. But it wasn’t until earlier in August, nearly four months later, that I finally went to the museum and saw the exhibit.
With the ongoing pandemic, entry to the museum — and, in turn — the Marvel exhibit have been limited. The exhibit, whose admission requires a separate fee, opened in March. It has been a tough ticket since, as it sells out quickly. It’s why I booked my visit so far in advance.
Luckily, the exhibit’s offerings live up to its high demand.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan who loves everything from the comics to the television shows — including some of those pre-Disney Plus — or a more casual fan who watches the movies, the Marvel exhibit is a vast opportunity for exploration and learning for everyone.
On the MSI Chicago website, the exhibit is described as a celebration of “Marvel history with more than 300 artifacts, including original comic book pages, sculptures, interactive displays, and costumes and props from Marvel’s blockbuster films.”
There are two parts to the exclusive exhibit, each one in a different gallery. The first part features more of the classic Marvel content, including its start with comics and the more iconic characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America and Iron Man. The second section focuses more on the heroes featured in Marvel’s Netflix shows, non-human characters like the X-Men and Inhumans, as well as extraterrestrial characters/narratives.
There is so much information to consume and so many sights to take in. I needed more than two hours to get through it all without rushing, but I could have just as easily spent a whole extra hour there.
For many, one of the main appeals of the exhibit is getting to see up close the same costumes and props that Marvel’s biggest names have actually used, including Mjolnir, the Eye of Agamotto, Green Goblin’s pumpkin bomb, and more. It’s one thing to see these things on the screen. But it’s a whole other experience to know that your very own eyes are taking in the sight directly.
The props and costumes are the type of thing that will bring out the childlike wonder in all Marvel fans — whether you’re a child or a grown adult. The same can be said for the various life-sized statues that were scattered throughout the exhibit. Whether it was with sitting next to The Thing asleep on a couch, or posing next to an upside-down Spider-Man who’s throwing up a peace sign, people were always eager for a photo opportunity.
The various displays have informational panels paired with them, providing background information and details for the respective artifacts and subjects.
Not far from that shield was Bucky Barnes’ costume from the same film. The metal arm was somewhat less appealing in person, knowing it wasn’t actually vibranium nor did it look like it. But getting to see all the details of the prosthetic was cool.
The costume that Charlie Cox donned as Daredevil in the Netflix series of the same name is a favorite. So seeing that one on display — along with Matt Murdock’s walking cane and red-lensed glasses — was exciting. It was especially nice to see the show acknowledged.
An underrated part of the exhibit is all the original art that it features. It may not be flashy or offer the same appeal as props and costumes, but it was a rare opportunity to see fantastic art in person. Just about every section had original art from the comics. As a Marvel nerd and creative professional who has publishing experience from my newspaper and yearbook days, the original art was a real highlight personally.
From a distance, the original art pieces may not seem particularly special, but a close look at the framed pieces revealed various original pencil sketches and other markings. Certain elements, like the title of the comic, were even literally cut and pasted onto the main page of art. It was a unique chance at seeing an early stage of the comic publication process.
Throughout the exhibit, there were also various interactive displays that offered further learning opportunities in an easy-to-consume format. One detailed the early days of Marvel, including trends they used and who its key creators were. Another described the “Marvel Method” of comics creation. There was also an interactive display dedicated to Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. One of its features highlighted key moments from the first five seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, which was awesome to see as a fan of the show.
The exhibit couldn’t possibly cover every single hero in the Marvel universe. But it does a phenomenal job at covering an extensive variety of characters and narratives from throughout Marvel‘s history.
At $40 per adult and $27 per child for non-members, admission to the museum and the exhibit isn’t cheap. But it does grant you access to a lot, including many permanent exhibits at the museum.
For more casual fans, I wouldn’t say the exhibit is a must-see, especially during this pandemic. For example, I went to the exhibit with my twin sister; she is more of a casual fan that watches all the movies and Disney Plus shows, so she doesn’t have the same sort of invested interest that I do, which meant it wasn’t a must-see for her. However, it’s still sure to be a fun, exciting experience given the costumes, props, and photo opportunities.
So if you’re a Marvel fan looking for a complete, unique experience to feed your interest, then the exhibit is worth checking out for those who can afford it and can safely do so.
The Marvel exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry runs until October 24.